Interview with: Joyce Camilleri
Welcome Joyce, I would like to start this interview from the beginning, do you remember which artist or which artwork moved something inside you when you were a child?
I was born in Canada in 1980, however, soon after turning 4, my parents decided to move back to their native country, Malta. I must say that I do not derive from a family that was particularly involved or interested in the art world; thus, the only artistic influences that I was exposed to as a kid were mostly casual and not intentional. In fact, the only forms of art I experienced regularly as a child were the Mattia Preti paintings found in St Catherine’s Parish Church in my hometown and the rich interiors of St John’s Co Cathedral in Valletta, where I used to regularly attend mass on Saturday evenings. I can vividly recall 8-year-old me, mesmerised by the latter’s impressive floors composed of inlaid coloured, marbled slabs, whilst totally ignoring whatever the priest was saying throughout the whole function. Only now I realise how much my limited palette of blacks, greys, whites and warm ochres reflects those rich marbled floors that I used to study so fervently.
And then? How have your approach and references changed growing up?
Like many of my peers, as I grew older, I developed an interest in the realistic representation of the outer world. The keen observation of the human form developed even further, as I would study my own limbs in the attempt to reproduce their sinuous lines and contours; recurrent visual elements that still emerge in my work. In this sense, I conduct regular visual research from the nude model during weekly life drawing sessions. I believe that the human form will always be my timeless inspiration and the place that I will always call home and go back to when I feel lost.
The choice of the expressive medium by an artist has multiple meanings, what prompted you to propose your works through drawing and printmaking?
Drawing is where art starts and never ends. In my case, printmaking developed alongside the drawing medium, for the latter retains the beauty of line and form, whilst printmaking serves as a tool to block the negative space, hence imparting depth and tension to the artwork. My limited palette highlights the harmonious merging of the two media, which complement each other in their distinctly graphical qualities.
Usually each artist has a different modus operandi, what is yours? How did your projects start and how do they develop?
My different artistic practices develop hand in hand with each other. At times they would be a natural consequence to each other, other times they would be relatively disconnected yet parallel. The common denominator is grounded in a special fascination for paper and the way it merges with drawn and printed elements. In fact, I exclusively produce works on paper of my choice and that can give me the intended results. This involves continuous research and experimentation, outlining a variety of effects that can be created through the use of different papers in conjunction with particular media and techniques.
What function do you attribute to your works and why?
My works are a reaction to what I see, what I notice and what I choose not to overlook in the visual world. They cross the boundaries between the drawn and the printed, sheer darkness and warm light, the real and the imaginary, the discernible and the ambiguous. At times human forms would emerge from an enigmatic background, bringing about narratives that echo different states of existence. Other works would develop into mysterious landscapes and surreal spaces. In both cases, my work invites the viewer to seek personal meanings, bond with the peculiar characters and delve into the odd spaces with a sheer sense of wonder for the unknown.
We are at the end of this short interview, would you like to add something about your research and your art that has not emerged previously?
Just as the term abstraction can be defined by the process of something that ‘takes form’, I envision my artworks as an ongoing process of becoming in and through the fusion of the medium with the paper. The limits of the paper as a surface and the qualities of the medium as an expressive tool are challenged and tested in multiple ways. At times their boundaries are pushed to an extent where the piece is destroyed. Other times I wisely stop at the right moment when the magic is created. It is a continuous process, a daring affair that entails skill, patience, and an exciting passion for risk-taking.